Throughout this one day, I feel like the group has accomplished its entire mission here as Students Shoulder-to-Shoulder. We have all creating lasting bonds with the people here, halfway across the world, despite the language barrier, and despite our very different backgrounds. I think I’ve really learned what it means to connect with someone with your heart, rather than through conversation or relatable experiences.
Our morning started off with a visit to a nomadic family, deep within the rolling green mountains. We drove for about 20 minutes, then our driver pulled the worn out vans into the mud on the side of the road. We hiked a short way up, and when we came over a small hill, we found ourselves looking at a black canvas tent, and two smiling women standing next to a little group of yaks. In this moment, I knew that today would be a day that I would never forget.
After sitting and talking with the nomadic family and learning about their lives, a couple of people in our group set out to hike the hill behind the family’s tent. Avery and I climbed, completely out of breath, for about 5 minutes before the nomadic girl named Sanglo ran up to us, breathing perfectly. We smiled, and it was not necessary to try to talk with each other. We continued our climb to the top, Sanglo pulling Avery and I along excitedly. When we proudly summited the small hill, we looked around in amazement at the view around us. Vast, sweeping valleys, sparkling streams, and grand mountains presented themselves in every direction. At the top, there was a small shrine, littered with prayer flags that looked like they had been there for a hundred years. We caught up with Ellen and Alec and Nicole, but the altitude was bothering Avery, so Nicole took her back to camp, leaving the rest of us with Sanglo.
The beautiful 15 year old nomadic girl shyly motioned for us to follow her. We all hurried to catch up with her as she showed us every plant, feeding us edible roots and onions and pointing out flowers that were useful in different ways. She may not have had a western education, but she was incredibly smart and talented. She led us onward, braiding Ellen and my hair with crowns of flowers and making Alec a
flowered necklace. Growing bolder, she grabbed our hands, skipping excitedly, and singing in Tibetan, the only language she knows. We walked farther and farther away from the tent, and she showed us her sling that she used to herd yaks. She whipped it around with incredible strength and accuracy, clicking and whistling and yelling. We followed suit, and learned how to easily and quickly move the herd. This entire time, we laughed and smiled, and attempted to communicate small things. I felt so happy and peaceful in that moment, for a second I wished that I would never have to leave.
But then it was time to return back to the tent for lunch, and so Sanglo grabbed Ellen’s and my hand, and we skipped contentedly back to the camp. I was so happy to be a part of this girl’s life for this day. Being the same age, it was so special to create this friendship- even if we never see each other again because she moves to higher ground, and I return home. When it was time so leave, she rushed up to me and hugged me, then ran down to the vans with us, waving and smiling, no longer the shy girl we first met. This whole moment was so beautiful, and every day that we spend here, I’m constantly surprised by a new and wonderful experience. Just when I think this course couldn’t possibly be better, I experience a moment like this one, and I smile just a little wider.